West Springfield, MA- Eric Lang took the Head Coaching job at his alma mater in 2016 when the American International College Yellow Jackets didn’t have an over .500 season in their Division I history. In his six seasons at the helm, the Jackets have claimed four consecutive Atlantic Hockey Regular Season championships and the last two Atlantic Tournament crowns. AIC took another step toward a third straight Conference crown with a convincing playoff win over the Bentley Falcons.
AIC jumped off the blocks quickly, outshooting Bentley 14-4 in the opening frame. The Falcons also took a penalty just 38 seconds into the game. Brendan Walkom took a hooking minor and Brian Rigali potted the power play goal 1:38 into the game. Blake Bennett potted his first goal of the night 59 seconds later to make the score 2-0. The Falcons offered pushback when Matt Lombardozzi notched his first goal of the game. But AIC re-extended the lead with a Chris Dodero tally 11:57 left in the frame.
Blake Bennett scored his second goal of the game in the second period to balloon the lead to 4-1. Bentley did outshoot their hosts in the frame, but couldn’t notch another tally.
They did in the third, though. Luis Linder took a holding minor, one of nine minor penalties between the two teams. Matt Lombardozzi potted his second goal of the game and made the score 4-2. But that was as close as the Falcons would get and the last goal of Bentley’s season. Austen Long took a feed from Blake Bennett to make the score 5-2 midway through the final stanza, and Bennett potted the empty netter and close the scoring at 6-2.
Bentley’s season ends at 14-20-2. Evan DeBrouwer recorded 21 saves on 26 shots faced.
Seniors and graduate students Luke Orysiuk, Ethan Roswell, Matt Lombardozzi, Dylan Pitera, Michael Zuffante, Kohei Sato, Collin Rutherford, Will Schlagenhauf, Evan DeBrouwer, and Fraser Kirk all include their Bentley Hockey careers.
AIC improves to 20-12-3, their third 20 win season in the last three seasons and the fifth 20 win season in program history, spanning back to the Jackets’ DIII days.
Blake Bennett recorded his first career hat trick and got an assist for four points, a career high for the Grand Island, NY, native.
“The hardest thing is ending someone’s season,” said Bennett. “We talked about that. We knew we had to have a better game today. We made the adjustments and those made it easier for us today.”
The Yellow Jackets return to the Atlantic Hockey Semi-Finals for the third straight tournament. AIC will meet the Mercyhurst Lakers on Friday at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, NY. The other AHA Semi-Final will pitch Air Force against either RIT or Sacred Heart, who play game 3 of their series at on Sunday 5:05 pm ET at the Gene Polisseni Center, in Henrietta, NY.